Murray wouldn’t join the A’s, instead opting to quarterback the Arizona Cardinals en route to NFL stardom. Canterino signed with the Twins for $1.1 million.
While Murray and Canterino have taken different paths, the two crossed for a duel in Texas. Murray stepped into the box and came up empty against the right-hander.
“I struck him out,” Canterino said.
Striking hitters out has become a common occurrence for Canterino, who fanned 45 of the 84 batters he faced in a shortened 2021 season. Canterino suffered from elbow tendinitis, ending his dominant campaign prematurely.
Canterino, 24, has pitched just 48 Minor League innings since he graduated with a 4.0 GPA in Mechanical Engineering from Rice University. In those 48 innings, he’s struck out 76 and allowed just six total runs for a 1.13 ERA. Rice has a history of pushing pitchers, and the Twins were uber-conservative with Canterino’s workload after the draft in 2019. Then COVID-19 canceled the 2020 Minor League season.
Canterino eclipsed 94 or more innings in all three of his seasons in college, which he said shows an aptitude to handle a larger share. So far this offseason, so good.
“I’m feeling very healthy and feeling very, very strong.”
A herky-jerky, “hitch” delivery helps Canterino generate a fastball in the upper-90s. The 6-foot-2 Texan pairs that fastball, which contains excellent carry, with a sharp, biting slider and an improved changeup. He compared his delivery and mix to future Hall of Famer Clayton Kershaw.
Canterino’s changeup moves like a splitter, with enough depth to dart away from lefties and crowd righties who may be looking fastball or slider. That three-pitch combination held hitters to a minuscule .111/.186/.148 batting line in 2021.
“I want to think that with success I had in limited reps this year, I want to think that I can sustain that over a full season.”
Sustaining a 0.78 ERA and 54% strikeout rate over an entire season would propel Canterino to the top of prospect lists everywhere and likely to Minnesota. Anything close to those gaudy numbers will undoubtedly move Canterino into the Major League picture for late-2022 and early 2023.
Canterino dominated High-A hitters in 2021 and could be slated for the Double-A Wichita rotation in 2022. No matter where he pitches next season, you can bet that Canterino will have a PEZ dispenser or two handy.
Often greeting his 2019 teammates and coaches with a “howdy!” prompted a pitching coach to tag Canterino with the nickname Woody, referring to the famous cowboy from Toy Story. In response, Canterino bought a five-pound bag of PEZ candy and handed it out via a Woody-themed dispenser. He carried the tradition into 2021 and plans to run it back in 2022.
Canterino said he recently added a Buzz Lightyear PEZ dispenser, Woody’s galactic best friend from the movies.
“If you ever catch me on a day I’m not pitching, Woody will be in my left pocket, and Buzz will be in my right.”
Canterino is gearing up with his PEZ dispensers for a January return to Fort Myers.
“It’s all systems go for 2022.”